The M3. One of the most iconic BMW’s ever built. Its lineage is envied by most every car manufacturer out there, and for good reason. As a result, it’s had a giant target on its back since Day 1.
Even so, with all of the success it’s had, should there be so many different versions offered? For arguments sake, and for the sake of keeping this article shorter than Homer’s Iliad, we will only be focusing on the E9x generation.
You might be asking yourself “How many different versions are there anyways?” Well, that’s an excellent question. Between the region specific exclusives, special packages and the ultra rare limited editions, without trying too hard, I managed to count over 15 models.
Here are a few:
• Competition Package
• DTM Champion Edition (54 Examples)
• Frozen Limited Edition (U.S. Exclusive 150 Examples)
• Lime Rock Park Edition (200 Examples)
• Frozen Black Edition (U.S. Exclusive 20 Examples)
• Track Edition (Netherlands Exclusive 10 Examples)
• Tiger Edition (China Exclusive 30 Examples)
• Carbon Edition (China Exclusive 111 Examples)
• Pure Edition (Australia Exclusive 50 Examples Sedan 50 Examples Coupe)
• Frozen Silver Edition (U.K. Exclusive 100 Examples)
• Stripe Package
• GTS (250 Examples)
• CRT (67 Examples)
These variants are special in their own way, each with their own combination of wheels and wheel finishes, exterior and interior finishes as well as trims and stitching, exhaust tips, side view mirrors, air intakes, kidney grills and of course the use of carbon fiber. Some of the variants listed above also come with a numbered plaque that signifies the limited production run that they are a part of.
Now, that’s all well and good, perhaps even exciting news to hear, no? Well, the more astute BMW followers amongst you will have noticed that, aside from some of the more exotic variations listed above such as the GTS, the CRT and to a certain extent the Carbon Edition, most of these models are normal M3s with fancy matte paintjobs, painted wheels and varied interior trims. And, for the most part, the short answer is yes. You are correct in your observation. What’s more, the majority of them have the same stock engine as the standard model with no other modifications or performance increases in sight.
I too noticed this new trend that BMW started, and I must admit, with each new exclusive or limited edition that was announced, I got all wide eyed and hoped for something truly special. Variant after variant, exclusive after exclusive, my enthusiasm got deflated and my hopes dashed by the same sentiment that has troubled many of you. During various conversations, phrases such as “overpriced M3’ and “wait, it’s got the same amount of HP as the normal one? Why pay more when I can tune it for that kind of money?” were uttered. I must admit, I found myself thinking this is BMW trying to cash in on the success of the M3, squeezing as much profit out of the legendary moniker and raking in the benefits.
Tsk tsk, I thought to myself. You may have the fancy paint, the performance brakes, the performance exhaust and perhaps a flat bottom steering wheel depending on the variant, but all in all, your “special” only seems to run skin deep.
Or does it?
I have come full circle. From excitement, wanting to see special versions of the M3 being produced, to disappointment thinking they’re all the same, to realization of the truth. And what is that truth? Let’s pause and take a side trek.
I was 16, got my first job, had my own car and was feeling like a man. My grandfather and I went out to shop for a new wristwatch, as a gift from me to me. After a few days of browsing the stores, I found the one, fell for it and bought it. The brand shall remain unnamed, with the only descriptor being that it was constructed out of stainless steel. A few days later, I found myself in the shops once again, only this time it wasn’t I doing the browsing. Regardless, while store hopping, I spotted my watch. I smiled and leaned closer to look at the watch in the glass case, the watch I thought I was wearing. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but the watch in the case, there was something different about it. It was also more expensive. I was intrigued.
“Excuse me, sir, may I please see this watch?” I said. A very nice gentleman, in his late 50’s replied with “absolutely.” As he hands me the watch, I take it in my hand and I immediately realize something. It’s lighter. Quite a lot lighter in fact. “Do you feel that?” he asks. “It’s made out of titanium which is 40% lighter than steel.” I nod agreeing and confirming his remark because by now my own watch is off and in one hand, while the titanium one is in the other, with me doing a sort of “weight balance test” swaying my arms vertically in the air. “It’s also got the blue and yellow accents on it because it’s a limited edition.”
“I know” I say. “I have the same watch, only I don’t.”
It’s at this moment that I realize, I’ve made a mistake. I realize that, I don’t want the stainless steel version, but the titanium version. I realize that the titanium version is stronger, lighter and just a bit more special than its stainless steel brother, which belonged to me. It’s more rare too, but no one necessarily has to know. It’d be hard to tell the difference between the two anyways. But I’d know. You see, it’s the details that make something good, great.
I returned the stainless steel watch which had been in my possession for less than 3 days, went back to the shop where I saw the titanium one, paid the difference and got my very first watch.
Back to our M3s.
The fact is, although it may seem as though BMW charges a lot more for these special editions while skimping on the “what’s included in that price” list, there is a hard truth that is intertwined with a dash of automotive romance.
The hard truth is that, business is business and BMW is in the business of making cars, which yield profit. Although rational thinking would dictate that what you get from these special editions compared to the premium you are paying does not add up, there will be passionate customers out there ready to pay this premium. We need only look at the U.S. Exclusive Frozen Black Edition. 20 examples exist and all 20 units were sold within 22 minutes of going on sale. 22 minutes. That’s faster than most people’s lunch break.
Just like my watch story, these special models are purchased by people who connect with these objects at a certain level. They know they’re paying more for perhaps only slightly better. For these people however, the good standard M3 is turned great for them because deep down they know they own something unique. It doesn’t have to be a huge increase in horsepower. It doesn’t have to be a front splitter. For me, the titanium and the fact that it was harder to find was enough. For some, carbon fiber components and a numbered plaque is enough. It’s theirs. And although carbon fiber can be painted over and although the numbered plaque resides inside the car, the owner will know that they are in possession of something special.
I still own that watch. I wear it almost every single day. It’s special to me.
Should you be the owner of say, a DTM Champion Edition M3, you have a story in your garage. You own a great car made greater by the fact that your specific M3 celebrates the victory BMW Motorsport had in the 2012 DTM racing series by winning the driver, team and manufacturer titles in their first year returning to the sport after nearly a 20 year hiatus. Not only that, but knowing that you have 1 of only 54 models ever produced makes it all that more special. But you already knew that.
It’s not always just about the numbers and figures. Us car folk should know this and easily relate to it. Who would want a two and a half plus decade old car? No one. Now, who want’s a 1986 E30 M3? You do. There’s just something about it that makes you want one badly. It’s rare. It’s special. It’s an M3. Who’s to say these M3 variants won’t be just as sought after as the E30?
In final, if BMW is making money off of creating and selling limited edition M3’s, or any other BMW for that matter, and if they’re making people happy, then business is business, happy buyers are buying, sleigh bells are ringing and hopefully money is pouring into creating and developing the automotive superstars of the future! I personally would love to see a new, hardcore CSL M3 in the upcoming F80! The more varied the options, the better because I’m sure they’ll all find a loving garage!
What’s your take? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!